What's it about?

This blog has a very specific purpose: it's a place to post prompts for creative writing during the time of the lockdown. Initially it was for the use of my writing group, as we cannot for the time being meet in person - but I want to open it up to anyone who'd like to have a go at creative writing. I very strongly believe that writing is good for you: while you're writing, you're off somewhere else - you've escaped! And that can only be a good thing during lockdown.

Do sign up to be notified by email when a new prompt is posted - usually on Thursdays - and I would love to hear how you're getting on in the comments. Have fun!

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Haiku

Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry which dates back over a thousand years. I imagine (probably quite wrongly) the ladies and gentlemen of the court, in their embridered silken robes, drifting out of the palace into gardens filled with cherry blossom, lingering on bridges above ponds filled with golden carp, lifting their heads as a cool breeze reminds them of the distant, snow-capped mountains...

Well, it's not quite like that here. But it is a time where many of us have unexpected amounts of leisure to stop, and gaze, and think. And haiku is the perfect way to encapsulate such moments, and such thoughts, in a few words.

Japanese is a very different language from English, and so English haiku is naturally going to differ from the original form. I don't know any Japanese, so I don't know how great the difference is. But this is my understanding of the form.

A haiku is very short. It has three lines, and traditionally the first and last line have five syllables each, and the middle line has a heady seven syllables. It doesn't rhyme.

It focuses on a moment in time. Because of this, transience, a sense of time passing, of the cycle of life, is often a theme. Often it will start with an observation of something observed through the senses - something seen, heard, smelled, touched or felt. This may be followed by a reflection: the experience examined. Short as it is, it can be very profound: whether it's that or not, it certainly captures a moment in time in a very direct way.

Haikus don't take very long to write, but like any creative activity, they require you to focus very intently on what you're doing. And while you're doing that, you aren't doing other things - like worrying, for instance. So they're ideal for the time of the virus.

And they're good too because they make us notice things; they help us to engage with the world outside ourselves - particularly with the natural world.

Here are a couple I did a while ago. I volunteer on the SS Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's beautiful, groundbreaking ship. It's been brilliantly restored, and you can go to see it in Bristol.

The SS Great Britain

One day last winter, as the afternoon drew to a close and the shadows lengthened, I was on the ship, below deck. Hardly anyone was about. At this time, the ship's past feels very close. I thought about all the people who had travelled on the ship for two months at a time, who'd lived, laughed, fought, given birth, fallen ill, died there.This is what I wrote.

The ship's restless ghosts
Whispering, sighing, sleeping.
Lives lived and lives lost.

And this one, about the ship herself:

She cleaves the water
Not mistress of the sea, but
An uneasy guest.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to have a go at writing some about the time of the virus. Will post in the comments. If you write one and would like to share it, you could do the same!


17 comments:

  1. The time of the plague.
    The world’s engine halts, falls silent.
    A plum blossom opens.

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  2. The sky is empty
    Of planes. Birds reclaim the space.
    And oh - how they sing!

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  3. We walk in sunlight
    Coming down from the high ground
    Home through silent streets

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  4. Love it, Eric. When you read it, you're there, in that moment.

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  5. Forced idleness
    Gives a perfect chance to shine
    And light up the dark.

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  6. Another lovely one - how like you to look for the positive!

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  7. Jewel-faced goldfinches
    Beautiful, dancing flashes
    Here now, gone again.

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    Replies
    1. Not really to do with the situation but anyway!

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  8. Doesn't matter at all - it's about things you're seeing now - and who doesn't need more goldfinches in their lives! Thanks - it's lovely.

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  9. Topsy turvy world
    Social isolation rules
    Hugs and kisses banked

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    Replies
    1. This is by Dianne Long - love that last line!

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  10. Kitchen table desk.
    Companionable silence,
    As we work from home

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  11. This is a bit cynical, but sometimes how I feel-

    Out at eight o'clock
    Give clap to the NHS
    Toilet rolls on list

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  12. Glass. Out there, trees sway
    Birds dance across tides of air,
    Petals float, fall. Glass.

    ReplyDelete